Hang on to your old books

I love books.  I have always loved books, and over the years I have collected quite a few – I mean hundreds and hundreds.  I have book cases in each room.  There’s the living room collection,

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the guest room shelves,

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there’s a wall of books in my writing room,

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and book case in a spare bedroom,

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some rooms have books running along the ceiling,

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some rooms have collections on tables,

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the music room has a shelf system to hold old books,

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and certain pieces of furniture display favorites,

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of course there’s the library where we added two walls of bookcases floor to ceiling,

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There are books on the porch,

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and there are more –   many, many more .

Did I mention I love books?

Well, I thought I’d write about one of my favorite books today, so I strolled around the house scanning my collection, and I came upon this one by David Kibbes.

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Metamorphosis, written in the 80’s,  contained a style system whereby the reader was told what type of clothing would suit her based on body type.  Kibbes  grouped women into the following categories:  dramatic, natural, romantic, classic and gamine,  and though his particular fashion suggestions are now out of date, his system had a lot of originality and depth to it.

Being a spiritual person myself, what I found most fascinating about Kibbes’ system was how he not only considered the shape and size of a woman’s body, but also her spirit.  For example, I tested as  a classic type, but because I have many romantic notions in my personality David typed me as a  “Soft” Classic and made many suggestions on how to romanticize my classic look.  I found this to be very helpful and clever on his part.  Dramatics could be soft or theatrical. Naturals could be soft or flamboyant and so on.   We must make the final decisions about our appearance, but Kibbes gets us thinking in a fun way.

The blog, Brainy Beauty Talk, is creating posts these days updating some of Kibbes fashion  ideas and adding  new original  thoughts in  regard to his system.  You might enjoy checking it out.  There’s also a sample mini quiz  on line (type in: David Kibbes Metamorphosis).  It’s  the kind of quiz used in the book  which determines your yin/yang balance and image identity.       You may find the test and Kibbes whole concept fun.  I did, but,  if you get all fired up and  want to find a copy of the book for yourself

 GOOD LUCK!

And this is what I’m getting at.

Hold on to your old books.  I don’t remember what I paid for Metamorphosis  some 30 years ago, but I doubt it was more than $20.  Well, Amazon now is selling a  hardcover used copy for $77.59 and if you want a new copy, you’ll have to pay $176.70 for it.

WOWWY  ZOWWY!

So now you know why I titled this post as I did.

I think I’ll leave you now and see what some of my other books are selling for these days…

Maybe I’ll trade a few dozen in and take a trip to Bermuda.

Coffee Shops are for me

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The other day I was introduced to yet another French coffee shop in my area and I must say the warm blueberry-filled crepes dusted with powder sugar were absolutely delicious, but my waiter did not look anything like the fellow pictured above and the coffee shop did not look like anything pictured below.

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No, I guess one must go off to Europe, take a trip back in time…

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or find a book like this one, “The French Cafe” by Marie-France Boyer, in order to enjoy such romantic places.

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Starbucks in Brentwood, California
Here in the States there are coffee houses to be had, but they look more like this one.

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Another view…

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And here’s my favorite view because it contains a picture of my son Patrick working on his statistics.  But nice as this coffee house was, and I came here a number of times myself, there were no waiters in black tie nor were there any white tablecloths to be seen.  Sigh!

I was impressed because this Starbucks had live orchids on some tables.  Do you see one in the background?

Starbucks does have a good dark espresso roast so I’m always happy in one, and do you know –  if you buy their coffee in the market, you can bring your empty bag  back to the Starbucks, turn it in, and get a free cup of coffee? Yes, it’s true.

But I enjoy all sorts of coffee houses and when I’m back in Hudson my favorite is a Pete’s.

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Caribou Coffee

Until recently the Hudson Pete’s was  a Caribou Coffee and it looked like this.  There was a fireplace and a wall of windows.  The windows are still there but the fireplace is sadly gone now, and there have been other design changes in the room too, but many of the workers are the same people and the coffee is just as good.

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The nice fellow who works the counter

Do you enjoy spending time in coffee houses as I do?  A coffee house is a great place to read a book, write a letter, meet a friend,  plug your laptop in and create posts for your blog  or reach out to the whole world via internet or while writing letters while sipping a cappuccino.

My “dead friend” Lord Byron said, “Only in letter writing do we have solitude and society simultaneously”, but though he has a point there, coffee houses also grant  a certain amount of solitude while enjoying  society.

You can even make new friends while enjoying a coffee house.  I met a lovely man recently by the name of  David.  He is old enough to be my father, so don’t worry.  There’s no hanky-panky going on, just friendly conversation.  It’s always so nice to meet interesting new people, don’t you agree?  David worked in theatre and public relations, but  he also created and still creates  beautiful leather goods.  Every time David and I see each other at the coffee house I learn more and more about this interesting man, and isn’t that how friendship grows?

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This luxurious “naked” finish leather is drum-dyed, not spray painted and is without the fillers, pigments and plastic coatings found on commercial-trade leathers. The result is a warm natural look and buttery-soft suppleness found only in superb “naked” leather

Was I surprised when he gave me this lovely pencil case which he made with his own two hands.  I would’ve never met David nor enjoyed owning such a great pencil case if it weren’t for my love of coffee houses.  And look how much I’ve learned about leather. Now you’re learning about “naked” finish leather too and all because I frequent coffee houses.

So

Unless you’re reading this in France you may not be able to find coffee shops where waiters are wearing black tie and carrying  white towels, and you may not find coffee shops with white tablecloths, but nevertheless,  GO!…

Go to a coffee shop.

Read there!

Write there!

Meet People!

Coffee shops are great!

They’re for me and maybe they’re for you too.

Let me know what you think.

When Things Come Together

The other day I received an important  message.  Today that message is coming to you.  The message came at me from three separate sources:  from Mister Rogers of classic tv’s Mister Roger’s Neighborhood,  from Eloise, a fictitious little girl of the classic Eloise book series by Kay Thompson and from Amy Hollingsworth, a writer.  These three  individuals directed me to another book and the source of the message, to Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s The Little Prince.  I don’t know about you, but when things come at me in two’s or three’s I pay attention.

It all started when I was reading The Simple Faith of Mister Rogers by Amy Hollingsworth

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and a lovely book it is too,  filled with many warm and wonderful spiritual reflections. (I highly recommend this book to you.)  It seems The Little Prince was one of Mister Roger’s favorites.  Amy, one of Fred’s pen friends, said Fred spent most of his life quoting the following words from The Little Prince: 

L’essentiel est invisible pour les yeux

Well, I always loved Mister Rogers and I’ve written to him myself.  I also love the French language, along with many other  French things – French food and the restaurants that serve it, the French countryside, and my lovely  French friends, Stephanie, Patrice and their sweet children – Llyona, Marc-Aurele and Arpad.  So, when the above French words popped out at me from the Mister Rogers’ book, of course I took special notice of them.  In case you don’t speak French here’s what they mean:

“What is essential is invisible to the eye”

Have you ever given thought to this idea?  I have, especially in regard to  letter writing.  You see, I write to very many people whom I’ve never met ‘in person’, never even seen in a picture.  I get to know many of these people by way of  The Letter Exchange, (www.letter-exchange.com) an organization which puts letter writers together.  Though some folks I meet in this way will send pictures of themselves, most will not, but pictures or no pictures,  great friendships evolve as letters are shared.  You may think it strange that people could become great friends even though they have  absolutely no idea what each other  look like, but it is possible.  I have many of such friends. (Hello to Gwen, Patricia, Erika, and all the rest of you)  Why, I could be sitting next to one of these favorite people on a plane and never even know it!   But  I’ve often thought how wonderful this is, for  in letter writing people can get to know each other’s spirit without  letting physical appearance get in the way.  Looks can be so deceiving you know!  And I do believe

“What is essential is invisible to the eye”

But besides the spirit of a person being invisible yet very important, there are many other invisible things we should not  neglect.  What do you think they are?  What is essential for you? It’s good to take time out for serious reflection now and then, the kind of reflection letter writing provides, for only with thoughtful reflection will we ever come to know what is essential.

My “dead friend” Lord Byron, the poet,  put it very well when he used to say: 

             A life without reflection is a sad affair 

But you may be wondering where Eloise comes in to this story.  Well, I was having a movie night for the children in my church choir  and  I needed a good film so I did a search on Net Flix for something fun, but something that was also thoughtful.   I came upon a Disney remake of the classic Eloise at the Plaza.  Ah, the Plaza!  I love that hotel in New York City.

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The Plaza

So that was enough for me and the film proved to be just delightful.  I suggest you check it out no matter how old you are.  Julie Andrews plays a darling nanny (nothing like Mary Poppins).

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An older nanny, but very sweet

    And Eloise is so cute, so devilish, but  so full of life and thoughtful too – I found her very inspiring.  We’d all have a lot more fun if we acted like Eloise now and then.

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Eloise

Disney was so true to the book too – a wonderful thing.  Here’s an example.  Just take a look at the book and then a scene from the film.

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And the film had a little prince in it too -not Antoine’s Little Prince but a prince just the same, a prince who was quite touched by the message in Saint Exupery’s  book, a book which became  important to Eloise’s story.  The prince was touched by the  message in The Little Prince as was I, as was Mister Rogers and  hopefully as  you are too… because it’s so very true.

“L’ essentiel est invisible pour les yeux”

WHAT IS ESSENTIAL IS INVISIBLE TO THE EYE

Let this be your thought for the day

(or at least one of them)

by way of Mister Rogers, Eloise,  Amy Hollingsworth

and

ME!

                              

I feel like going visiting today!

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“Oh how this spring of love resembleth, The uncertain glory of an April day! Which now shows all the beauty of the sun And by and bye a cloud takes all away.”
Shakespere
I feel like an outing on this first day of April.  How about you?  But not just any outing for me.  I think I’ll go to England or Scotland… or maybe I’ll go to both places.  After all, I have an hour or two free.

You see, I am very blessed to have a wonderful imagination.  I suspect we are all born with wonderful imaginations but some of us fail to exercise them, and as with so many things, we  “use it or lose it”.  I use my imagination regularly.  Do you?  Oh, I hope so.  Imagination is a terrible thing to waste.

So today I decided to leave Hudson for a few hours and take a little trip.  I feel like spending some time with my lovely “dead friend” and nature artist Edith Holden.  What is a “dead friend” you ask ?  A “dead friend” is a person from the past who we get to know,  admire. and enjoy.   We meet these people by reading their biographies, autobiographies, and/or by studying and becoming  familiar with their work.  I bet you have a few “dead friends” of  your own, at least I hope you do.  “Dead friends” add so very much to life,  more than a great many living, breathing people we meet.

I met Edith years ago when I discovered her beautiful book, Nature Notes of an Edwardian Lady. This book was published in 1906 by her husband Ernest.  It was published after Edith’s untimely death at age 49.   You see, Edith  drowned in the Thames while gathering buds from chestnut trees which she intended to paint.

Edith was born at Kings Norton, Worcester, in 1871 and was one of seven children of a Midlands paint manufacturer.  Her family lived in the small village of Olton Warwickshire and it was there that she wrote and illustrated her Nature Notes.

I think I’ll join Edith on one of her trips to Scotland where she studied painting for a year.  Would you care to join me?  Ok, let’s go!

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Nothing like an old fashioned train ride through the English countryside toward Scotland. Our train is powered by steam and imagination.
And here we are (That was fast!) at the home of her art teacher and his family.  They invited Edith to stay with them since she was so very far from home.  Romantic and peaceful setting, isn’t it?

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Edith’s home away from home one Summer
But let’s pop into the art studio and catch a glimpse of Edith working with her classmates.  I personally love how people ‘dressed up’ back in the old days.  No blue jeans and  t shirts for them.

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Practice makes not perfect, but improvement
Of course one can’t get very good at drawing nature while sitting in a classroom so after a certain amount of instruction in basic  technique off to the outdoors we all go.  Put on your sweater for it’s early April and the air is chilly.

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Let’s watch Edith paint a horse or two
Do you ever draw?  You should.  It’s great fun and anyone can do it.  As I said, practice makes improvement.  I love to draw flowers creating original stationery for some of the letters I write.  Maybe you’ve received one such letter.   Flowers are easy to draw.  Try drawing this one:

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Come on. You can do it! I’ll take a break from writing this post and draw this pink flower myself. I’ll create a floral notecard, then use this card for the letter I’ll be writing tomorrow to a friend in the state of Washington
Ok.  Here’s what I came up with.  I wonder what drawing you came up with.

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Erika, this is for you
If you have not  made your drawing yet, it’s ok.  You can finish reading my post and then get busy.  Art  play is really a lot of fun.  You’ll see.  But if you think flowers are tricky I wouldn’t suggest you try animals… not yet anyway.

Edith drew all sorts of animals and she was wonderful at the task.  She drew snakes, birds, butterflies, bees, mice, so many creatures –   even the occasional cow.

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MOO!
Between reading Edith’s book and viewing a wonderful four-video series I own all about her life, I can experience a faux visit to Scotland and the English countryside any time I like, getting close up looks at its flora and fauna.

I can sit beside Edith using my imagination and watch her sketch picturesque vistas.  She’s encouraged me to try my own hand at sketching.  Friends always encourage each other you know.

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The making of landscapes
We then explore streams with all their exuberant life forms and I don’t even have to get wet.

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An April flood carries away the frog and his brood — (just a bit of Folk-lore)
My time spent with Edith, looking at nature and looking at her drawings of nature, soothes my soul.

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It may indeed be only phantasy that I essay to draw from all created things deep, heartfelt, inward joy that slowly clings
Coleridge
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I love the season well when forest glades are teeming with bright forms
Longfellow
 I’ve read that spending time with things of beauty helps that beauty enter into us.  The beauty becomes us.  I can sometimes feel that happening.  Can’t you?

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Our expedition in search of wild flowers takes us across hill and dale.
To be off with Edith is a wonderful escape from one’s daily routine.  And when we’re tired from all our walking we can sit quietly together,  meditate, or share our favorite lines of poetry.

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Can trouble live with April days, or sadness with the Summer moons?
Tennyson
Yes, spending time in England and Scotland with gentle “dead friends” like Edith Holden is a wonderful experience.

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My “dead friend” Edith Holden
 And  Edith’s  spirit stays with me long after these imaginary visits.  As I walk  the garden paths in my own town, in my own time,  I can still feel her calming presence dignifying my every step.

So now I’ve introduced you to Edith, but  it’s up to you to cultivate your own friendship with her.  Perhaps she’ll inspire you to create your very own nature notes or you might get yourself some watercolor pencils and take up sketching, creating art for your home or floral note cards to send to your friends.

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Edith loved to write letters as I do
Why here’s an idea for you.  Take a walk outside and sit yourself down to sketch a flower, plant, or creature and then send your picture  to me with a note – or better yet, a letter.  I would love that!  Here’s my address:

204 E. Streetsboro Street

Hudson, Ohio 44236

USA

I’ll be watching my mail box, and of course if you write to me I’ll write back to you.  So from me and Edith  too — a fond farewell.  We’ll leave you with the entry from Edith’s nature notebook dated April 1, 1906.

STILL, WARM, CLOUDY DAY.  GATHERED SOME WILD DAFFODILS IN A FIELD.

Happy Art Play in Nature

Note:  Pictures used for this post are attributed to Central Independent Television’s video entitled The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady starrring Pippa Guard as Edith

My secret Hideaway

It’s Spring break in Hudson.  Many of my friends and neighbors have either hit the road or they’ve taken to the friendly skies in search of  escape.  Time away from all the usual things can be very refreshing indeed.  I escape to far off places now and then and enjoy myself  immensely, but it isn’t always necessary to travel  far in order to escape the monotony of life.

I enjoy regular escapes simply by turning  on my imagination, packing  a bag of supplies and heading  to my secret hideaway.  Of course it won’t be much of a secret if I keep telling people about it, but secrets are no fun unless they’re shared – at least some secrets.

My secret hideaway also goes by another name.  It can be called the Outbuilding.   What exactly is an outbuilding?  Webster defines it as a building (such as a shed or barn etc.) belonging to but separate from a house.

My personal outbuilding is inconspicuously located in the rear of our property.  It quietly sits with its back to all, commanding little or no attention.  Most of my visitors never even notice it.

When my husband first saw this outbuilding he was quite unimpressed.  In fact, he suggested we level it.  Level it?  NO WAY!   I liked it right from the start.  It was unusual, and I’ve always liked  “the unusual”  in people and in buildings too.

And so since my husband wanted no part of the Outbuilding I was delighted to make this building my own!  I do share it now and then with honored guests, perhaps hosting an afternoon tea, or serving drinks there before an intimate dinner at the house.

Would you like to pop in?  I’d be happy to show it to you if you have the time.  Why?  You know.  Sharing doubles the joy!

But put on your boots for it’s been snowing even though Punxsutawney Phil said we’d be having an early Spring.  Well, anyone can make a mistake, even Phil, still I’m told some locals are quite upset about the continuing snow.  There are “wanted posters” out for Phil.  Can you imagine such a thing?

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The Winter-looking herb garden
We must walk past the herb garden.  Do you see the outbuilding in the distance?  No?  Well I told you it was inconspicuous.  Keep moving past the barn.

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The Barn

Now do you see it?  Remember it has its back to us.   It’s hiding in the trees – perfect tactics for a secret hideaway, don’t you think?

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The Outbuilding
Doesn’t look like much, does it?  Well, let’s walk around to the front.  We’re almost there.

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A row of trees keep the Outbuilding hidden from the street – clever of the previous owners
Ok.  Ready or not, let me welcome you to my Outbuilding, my very own secret hideaway.

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The Outbuilding
It looks like a little play house, doesn’t it?  Well, that’s exactly what it is.  I come here to use my imagination, exercise my creativity, dream, read, write and  play. How and where do you play?  You do play, don’t you?   I hope so, but don’t just stand there in the cold.  Come on in!

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How ’bout a seat by the fire?
I was expecting you so I lit the candles and started a fire.  These things make the place feel so cozy any time of year.  Let me show you some of my things.  Of course I have my books, lots and lots of books.  I keep them on the shelves…

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A few books on The Art of Letter Writing
I keep more books hidden away in cabinets here, there, and everywhere for as I’m sure you know,  books can bring  the world to us  – interesting people and  great ideas.  My secret hideaway welcomes such visitors.

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More books
I’m delighted to have my maternal grandparent’s rocker, a rocker I remember from way back when.  I can remember sitting on my Dad’s lap at my grandparent’s house back when I must’ve been in the first grade.  Ah memories! Now that rocker is mine.

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To sit and rock… and dream dreams
I also am lucky to have my grandparent’s old kitchen table.  I can remember this table filled with breads and kuchens which my grandmother lovingly made to serve all of us when we came visiting every Sunday afternoon.  What ever happened to the custom of visiting?  I think we should bring it back!

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Grandma’s Table
I love to write letters on this table. (This one’s to you, Patricia)  I can sit here and look out the window at nature and ideas flow peacefully.

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A room with a view
Nature is always a most pleasant view whether it involves sunshine, rain or snow.  On warm days I open the two dutch doors and listen to the birds sing.

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The hideaway tea set
And of course I had to buy some special china for my Outbuilding.  This antique set serves me well along with any guests I may have.  Gee, I wish I could offer you a cup of tea right now.

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The firefplace
I was happy to see the color of the bricks used in the fireplace because they happened to blend nicely with some old oriental rugs we had from our first house.

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Our old rugs
Along with the rugs I pulled out some prints from storage, copies of primitive paintings… all the colors worked together.  The outbuilding sort of decorated itself.

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Primitives and candlelight

                             It was fun to choose fabrics and pillows

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A sleeper sofa, should I want to spend the night
                                             select accessories,

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One can never have too much candlelight
and hang pictures in my little hideaway –  an old portrait of me with my husband,

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Bill and CarolAnn 30 years ago
and a print of Fanueil Hall Marketplace (my husband and I met in Boston and made Boston our first  home together).

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Faneuil Hall Marketplace
                                 So here we are, in my hideaway.

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Notice the long built-in bench should I invite a crowd in for a talk on The Art of Letter Writing
There are books written  suggesting  the value of having a room of one’s own.  Well, a room is fine, but a building is even better.  When I escape to my secret hideaway, build a fire and turn on my imagination, there’s no telling what creative ideas appear.

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What is it about a roaring fire that make a person feel all cozy?
I hope you escape from your daily routine now and then. It’s not important how you do it or where you go, just that you give yourself time to be quiet and think.   Just to be quiet and think! Yes.  It could make all the difference in the world to your life.    This quiet alone time can stimulate your imagination, increase your creativity and bring you much needed peace.

Silence leads to reflection, reflection leads to appreciation and appreciation looks about for someone to thank.  As my good friend Mr. Fred Rogers used to say:  “I trust you will thank God, for it is God who inspires and informs all that is nourishing and good.”

So have yourself a Spring break,  and not just one.  Take lots of little breaks  all through the year, be they near or far away, breaks to get away from it all and be alone with yourself.  Be alone in silence.  If you have a secret hideaway of your own that’s great, but you don’t really need one.  You just need the  alone time and the  silence.

Be good to yourself

Take time to be

YOU!

                                                                        

    

  

                                                 

Good food and friendship is on the menu at Cafe Marcel

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Cafe Monsieur Marcel
Isn’t this the cutest little restaurant?  It’s situated on the Promenade in Santa Monica, California.  I discovered it while visiting my son Patrick who is in graduate school at UCLA.  One evening while Patrick and I were taking a stroll, there it was with its twinkling lights – a fairy tale-like structure, inviting us to step in and enjoy fresh flowers, candlelight, white tablecloths, and French food.  Yes!  This was my kind of place.

We dined here more than once while I was in L.A. because I liked Cafe Monsieur Marcel so very much.  It was just as delightful on a sunny afternoon for lunch.  Of course good company makes most any place delightful and I had great company,  a son I don’t get to see  often enough –  and here he is.

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This is Patrick
As I write this post on the first day of Spring in Hudson, Ohio I’m looking out my window at  snow flakes drifting down from the sky.  Punxsutawney Phil is on the wanted list in these parts for he predicted an early Spring and got all out hopes up.

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The snowy view from my window
To think at this same moment some people are walking about in shorts and short sleeve shirts (maybe even my husband who is on a  business trip in Sarasota, Florida, but could be sneaking in a little golf about now.)

At least I have my  photographs of sunny California to keep warm memories of my recent trip fresh in my mind – not only to help me remember lovely times in charming  places, but also to share some of those moments with you.  Why share?  You know.  Sharing doubles the joy.

To sit with a favorite person, partaking in good conversation while  munching delicious food in a delightful place, well, to me this is what the good life is all about.

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As I look at a photograph of our French-speaking server doing his job I can almost imagine I’m back at that cafe, and my mouth is watering as I think of the yummy dishes he could be bringing me,  if only I were still  there.

But good food was not the only thing this charming restaurant delivered to me.  It also presented me with a new pen friend.  Yes.  It’s true!  I do love to meet new people, and if they’re really nice I love to stay connected with them by suggesting we become pen friends.  You notice the lady and little girl  in the picture above?  Well, I’m delighted to say after asking this nice lady to take a picture of me and my son which she did, and here it is

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we began to chat.  I learned that her name was Deborah and that she’s a social worker.  Her little daughter had an interest in mythology and that is one topic my Patrick knows quite well so the two of them embarked in little quizzes for each other.  It was great fun.  I  asked Deborah at the conclusion of our lunch if she had any interest in corresponding, for as you may know, I am an avid letter writer, and to my great delight she said “YES”!

Some people enjoy coming home from a trip with a new piece of jewelry or some other keepsake, but I’m most thrilled to return home with a new pen friend from the place I visited.  A person can’t be in more than one place at a time, but with pen friends in lots of different places a connection to those places can be maintained.  I find this very exciting.

I’ll be writing Deborah soon and I’ll send her a copy of my pictures, especially this picture I took of Deborah and her daughter.  So sweet!

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People are very nice!  Do you reach out to strangers?  You should.  Strangers are simply great friends we haven’t yet met.  I feel very lucky to be an outgoing sort of gal who enjoys people very much.  I’m happy alone with myself, but to feel best, I also need people in my life, and though I love my old friends I’m always thrilled to make new ones.

You know what they say – People who need people  are the luckiest people in the world.  I feel lucky.  How about you?

I hope you have lots of old friends in your life, but I also hope you are open to new people who can become friends even if they live far, far away thanks to the beautiful Art of Letter Writing.

I’m so excited to add Deborah and her pretty little girl  to my family of  pen friends, for as Sarah Orne Jewett wrote:

YES’M, OLD FRIENDS IS ALWAYS BEST, ‘LESS YOU CAN CATCH A NEW ONE THAT’S FIT TO MAKE AN OLD ONE OUT OF

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So if you find yourself in Santa Monica, California on the Promenade, I highly recommend Cafe Marcel for some good food  -and maybe you’ll be lucky as I was to find a new friend there  too.

Haunted Houses

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Hower House
“All houses wherein men have lived and died are haunted houses”, so says Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and this is Hower House, a Victorian Mansion built in 1871.  It was the home of John Henry Hower and Susan, his wife.  I dropped over to sing John “Happy Birthday” along with a number of his other friends – The Friends of Hower House and a group called, The Victorians.  When you’re turning 191 years old it’s only right that people fuss a little,  pop over to your house with a cake, and sing a chorus or two in your honor.

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Carol Ann, Evelyna, and her beautiful cake
 Here I am with John’s cake and the lady who created it, my friend, Evelyna.  Not only is Evelyna a master baker and my friend, but she’s also my pen friend.  We send letters back and forth to each other in between our visits. Everyone should have talented friends like Evelyna,  plus a handful of pen friends, and of course, a few dozen “dead friends” too.

But let’s get back to John and Evelyna’s cake.  Here it is in its full delicious glory.

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One luscious slice
Evelyna calls this cake her Half and Half.  You’ll want to remember that name in case you order one for your next party.  Trust me.  It is DELICIOUS!  In between the white and chocolate cake is a European butter creme filling.  Yum!  The frosting is Italian Satin, based on a meringue style frosting recipe.  A shame John couldn’t have a piece of his own birthday cake, but hopefully he has pleasures of equal or greater value where he is now.

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John and 2nd and 3rd generation Howers
Here’s an old picture of John (on the far left) with his son and grandson.  Because I’ve been to their house a number of times I’ve learned a lot about John and his family.  I’ve learned John was born February 22, 1822 in Stark County, Ohio and I learned we have a few things  in common.  We’ve both been teachers.  John taught school for a while and I taught  music in schools.   Both John and I value creativity.  I create posts for my blog, write books, give talks on the art of letter writing, host teas and dinner parties, and John created a successful business that made him a fortune.

John was in the right place at the right time.  He met the inventor, John F. Seiberling, who patented the Excelsior Mower and Reaper, a machine that dramatically influenced the mechanization of agriculture, and they formed a business partnership that thrived  because of the Civil War.  The Union army required food and supplies and the agricultural machinery industry was there to provide what was needed.

Yes, John is one of my many “dead friends”.  What are “dead friends”?  They’re people of the past who we meet and get to know by discovering their work, reading their biographies and letters and visiting their houses.

John was truly one of Akron, Ohio’s leading industrialists, a great man, but he’s moved on now to a new address.  I’m not exactly sure what that address is, but  whatever it is, I bet he’s happy there, pleased that his Second Empire Italianate house is still being carefully maintained.  I’m pleased too, because historic preservation is important to me.

John’s house has been called one of the finest examples of Second Empire style in Ohio.  Historically, the House is the last remaining mansion from Akron’s first “Gold Coast,” and was the home of three generations of a  family that shaped history.  The Howers and their descendants occupied the home continually from 1871 until 1973.

Now Hower House is owned by Akron University and is opened to the public for guided tours. It may also be rented for receptions and private parties..

I love visiting most old houses, but I especially love visiting the old houses of my “dead friends”.  To see the very things these people lived with, the simple things, their antiques, the treasures they collected from far off places —  it’s fascinating!  But it’s not just the material goods that make a big impression on me.  It’s the very spirit of the people who lived in those places, spirit that may not be obvious to everyone, but is usually quite visible and clear to me.

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The Longfellow House
 I first experienced the  spirit of a ‘dead friend’ when I popped in at Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s House in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  Henry’s spirit was  all around that house.  I felt he’d be walking through the door at any moment.  Then, as if  that wasn’t enough, I discovered his very own words on the subject.  His thoughts about spirits and houses were captured in his poem,  Haunted Houses.  Henry was my very first “dead friend”.  Many more followed, and now John Henry Hower is one of them too.  You can never have too many friends you know — be they old, new, living,  or “dead”.  As friends share their stories inspiration flows.

Drop in at Hower House when you’re in Akron, Ohio and get to know John Henry, his family and his house.  If  you’re in Boston, pop on over to  Henry Longfellow’s house.  Tell them both I sent you.  But now, before you go, Henry wants to share his poem with you.  I hope you like it as much as I do.

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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

 HAUNTED HOUSES

All houses wherein men have lived and died are haunted houses.

Through the open doors the harmless phantoms on their errands glide,

With feet that make no sound upon the floors.

We meet them at the doorway, on the stair,

Along the passages they come and go,

Impalpable impressions on the air, A sense of something moving to and fro.

There are more guests at table than the host invited;

the illuminated hall is thronged with quiet, inoffensive ghosts,

As silent as the pictures on the wall.

The stranger at my fireside cannot see the forms I see,

nor hear the sounds I hear;

He but perceives what is;

while unto me all that has been is visible and clear.

We have no title deeds to house or lands;

Owners and occupants from earlier dates

From graves forgotten stretch their dusty hands,

And hold to mortmain still their old estates.

The spirit world around this world of sense

Floats like an atmosphere,

And everywhere wafts through these earthly mists and vapors dense

A vital breath of more ethereal air,

Our little lives are kept in equipoise

By opposite attraction and desires;

The struggle of the instinct that enjoys,

And the more noble instinct that aspires.

These perterbations, this perpetual jar of earthly wants and aspirations high,

Come from an influence of an unseen star,

An undiscovered planet in our sky.

And as the moon from some dark gate of cloud

Throws o’er the sea a floating bridge of light,

Across whose trembling planks our fancies crowd

Into the realm of mystery and light,  —

So from the world of spirits there descends,

A bridge of light connecting it with this,

O’er whose unsteady floor, that sways and bends,

Wander our thoughts above the dark abyss.